Thursday, October 11, 2007

Our mysterious hearts

As a mom, I’m required to set a good example for my kids and help them make good decisions on their own. So when they were recently diagnosed with high cholesterol, I knew I was in for a challenge.

I confess: I’m a self-indulgent foodie. I have high blood cholesterol. I enjoy eating flavorful, well-prepared food. And I love to cook, too, so that presents other challenges. To me, “low fat” or “low cal” means low taste and no flavor. Let’s face it: fat and empty white carbs just taste so good. There’s nothing like mashed potatoes made with full-fat cream and butter, or a nice pan-seared foie gras served with freshly baked white, crusty bread. Yum.

I have a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease, so I do what I can to satisfy my non-diet diet and keep my LDLs down. I work out often enough to compensate for the occasional cheeseburger, and eat enough whole grains, fruits and veggies to periodically allow some trans fat-free fried chicken into my life. I’m even taking a plant sterol/omega-3 supplement to even the odds.

But I can’t expect my teenage son and 8-year-old daughter to take supplements. I can, however, teach them to read nutritional labels on foods and make good choices at the school cafeteria. They now know the basic differences between “growing food” and “treats” (and in what proportion each should appear on their plates). They also know that while Cocoa Puffs are now made with whole grains, they may not be the healthiest cereal they can eat (they learned that one the hard way). They’re also aware that they have to get some quality exercise in several times a week. And, perhaps the most important portion control lesson of all: one should never eat a funnel cake alone.

I can also help them understand why it’s important to look for bread with at least three grams of dietary fiber per serving. It’s not just about learning how to balance your diet; it’s also important to keep your body healthy and strong to resist disease and illness. We have enough immediate family members with medical conditions for them to understand that what you put into your mouth can directly affect how you recover from sickness and keep it at bay.

I’m also going to have them watch The Mysterious Human Heart on MPT Monday, October 15 and Monday, October 22 at 9 p.m. There are some eye-popping computer-generated animations that recreate how the heart works (and when it fails), what healthy and non-healthy arteries look like and what can happen to kids and adults when they don’t nurture that one vital organ. The three-part documentary has really cool visuals and interesting stories that I know will give them some food for thought. And besides, it makes a much better argument to eat well and exercise than “because I’m the Mom, and I say so.”

Faith Michel
Director of Community Outreach Initiatives


Anonymous said...

I have a history of high cholesterol in my family as well and have to watch what I eat to keep it in check. Good call on teaching the kids how to read labels. Snaps to you cool mom.

Mercury said...

Wouldn't supplements be better than taking meds for lowering the kids' cholesterol?

Kristen said...

I think you are doing a great job with your kids. It may take a few years for it to fully sink, in but they will appreciate your nutrition lessons down the road. I think for the most part kids just can't quite make the connection between good health and food until later in life. When I do my nutrition lectures for kids I stress most of all that healthy food makes you feel good. It helps your mood, makes you feel happier and have energy for all your activities:)

Anonymous said...

I have high cholesterol and you have reminded me that I need to pay more attention to what I eat and be more aware of portion control. Thanks! I look forward to watching the programs you mentioned.

Faith said...

I personally don't have the medical expertise to comment on that, especially since every situation is unique. I'm of the opinion that helping your kids develop life skills like maintaining healthy habits and making sound nutritional decisions should be among the first line of defense.

I'm sure there are other parents out there that have good tips on teaching their kids to make their own health a priority...